How to Give a Good Design Feedback? 10 Tips to Master the Art of Feedback
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Andreas is a young talented designer. Recently he was invited to work for a cool design studio. He loves everything about his new role: the project, the team, and the management. The boss is always so friendly and encouraging! Everything is going great…according to Andreas.
But when we hear the same story from his boss Sandra, it’s not nearly as positive... According to her, “the new hire is top-skilled, but his design ideas sometimes need corrections”. Sandra does not want to sound negative when she gives design feedback to Andreas. So she always finds something positive to add to her comments.
But Andreas does not seem not to pick up Sandra’s point. It seems that he only hears the compliments!
Such misunderstandings are very common. But for a design agency like ours, design feedback from our clients is paramount. Eleken is a design partner for many SaaS businesses, and constant communication with clients has taught us the subtle art of feedback. The time has come to share how to give design feedback that is useful and well-received by your designers.
Why you need to master design feedback?
In short, the design feedback is essential for an effective design process and successful business outcome.
- It helps designers validate their design ideas and decisions. Designers need to get their ideas out and make them better. And the best way to do that is through interaction and collaboration with other team members.
- It aligns the design team with your business goals and your product vision. As a result, the end-product will turn out to be much better.
- It helps the design team understand what kind of impact their work has on users — which can be very useful for prioritizing UX efforts and resources.
Client feedback can make a real impact on the final design output. For example, design feedback sessions with Fruitful Source. After each design iteration we had a call with the client’s product team and they shared their thoughts about design ideas we proposed. During these feedback sessions we had healthy discussions: the client shared insights about their users, Eleken introduced best UX practices and together we came up with improved UX flows!
Is the sandwich method still in the game?
A sandwich feedback method is a popular way of communicating criticism layering it with positive comments. In the business world, everyone has heard of it and it is indeed quite obvious when someone is trying to mask negative feedback with compliments.
Despite being easy to regognize, the sandwich method still works and you might want to use its benefits, especially when:
- You find it hard to give feedback.
- You know the person you give feedback to is sensitive.
- You heard before that your way of giving feedback is considered too straightforward or even rude.
Imagine the situation: you build a solution for senior users. Your designers present a screen. And the first thing you see is that the font is thin and won’t work for your end-users. It is clearly a bad UX design for seniors and you are frustrated with the team. Now, breathe in and out. Look at the screen again, and pay attention to the overall layout. Is there anything that you like? Good. Now it’s time to give feedback.
We are used to hear about sandwich method for personal feedback. But how do you comment on a design? Try using the framework as on this picture.
And you will see that such example of design feedback works! Designers hear you, they agree and explain that this was only the first prototype and they were mostly focused on UX flows. The next one will be fully focused on UI design, picking fonts and color palettes so they will gladly hear more insights from you.
When to give design feedback?
Being a control freak and giving feedback every day does not improve your final result. Moreover, breathing down your designer’s neck in the middle of the process stresses them out, wastes your own time, and blurs your vision!
An appropriate on-time feedback, on the other hand, can direct design team and change their vision for the better. With that being said, let’s see when it's a good time to give design feedback.
- Give feedback before you start working. Comment on previous projects from your designer’s portfolio or even references. This will help your designers understand your preferences better, and will save time in finding common ground.
- Give feedback after the designer presented their design decision. Quite often, design ideas make more sense after you hear how design principles work.
- Give feedback when your designers finished one stage for example wireframing. Giving feedback in the middle of the creative process is usually a bad idea. Learn more about wireframes in our article.
- Ask your designer(s) directly. They will be happy to help you pick the right time when you can give comments and change the design.
Challenges around design feedback
Usually, people in the product team are passionate about what they do and care a lot about the product they design. But while the design delivery feedback can be incredibly helpful, it can also be overwhelming and difficult for both parties.
Even if you know exactly what you want, it's not always easy to express it in a way that others will understand. Look at our character Sandra, she tries to use sandwich method but she lacks confidence and Andreas honestly thinks she’s just praising his work. This is rather bad design feedback example:
More straight-forward approach would work better for Andreas.
But not like that, Sandra! Her frustration takes over and the feedback is getting dangerously personal. In such cases, you need to calm down and prepare a detailed and actionable feedback.
Below are ten tips for effective feedback that will help our characters to overcome this misunderstanding.
How to give good design feedback?
To make sure that the feedback you provide is not hurtful and is perceived well, follow these tips:
- Be specific, and state the problem clearly. For example, the design feels confusing. You can tell you designers, that UX flow is not intuitive. Point out where you felt the friction. Give specific examples where you stumbled along the journey or what you have misunderstood.
- Share the context and link your feedback to the bigger picture. Design does not happen in vacuum, so if you have any insights that can help designers, add it to your feedback. Help your design team understand your business. The team aligned around a clear vision and business goals will perform better.
- Explain the logic behind your opinion. Don’t just drop the comment “I don’t like it, let’s change it”. Tell your design team why something is not working for you and what was your thought process behind the feedback.
- Know what to evaluate and when. This is the most important for UX/UI feedback. For example, if you're looking at an early prototype, don't focus on things like color or font choice – these things will change anyway as the design evolves. Instead, focus on whether users are able to complete particular tasks and whether they understand what they're supposed to do when they use your product or not.
- Make your feedback actionable. If possible, suggest solutions or clear action points. Show examples of what you think would work better. Or leave a clear request of what changes you expect.
- Be open to suggestions from others. When you give feedback to a designer, remember to hear them out. Often a healthy discussion is a way to success. Hear out your designers, their explanations, and suggestions.
- The question is the best form of feedback. The difference between good and bad feedback is sometimes simply in the form you chose to express your thoughts. From our experience, questions are a more constructive form of criticism. They sound less negative and give designers an opportunity to explain the logic behind certain decisions.
- Let your feedback rest before your share it. No matter whether you are in a UX meeting or reviewing design in Figma, it’s a good idea to capture your first impression by taking notes. It also helps you organize your thoughts. Then share your opinion after a little pause.
- Don't get personal or biased. Make sure you review the design deliverable, not the person. Never mix personal feedback with design feedback. Don’t let prejudices rule you when evaluating design.
- Be polite and friendly. We all have bad days, but the nice vibe in work meetings is worth the effort. Use our tips to shape constructive feedback and let go of any frustration.
If you felt that most of these tips sound like common sense, kudos to you! Apparently, you already mastered the art of feedback, keep it up!
Remember, you hired design professionals and they are good at what they do. So don’t stress too much, trust the team and enjoy the process.
And when it’s time to evaluate the design, use our tips and follow this checklist to give constructive feedback for designers:
- Make sure your feedback is not personal nor biased
- It is backed up by business or user needs
- Your comments are descriptive and within the context
- Your feedback is actionable
- You are both friendly and precise
Hope you picked up some crumbs of wisdom. The key takeaway is that feedback helps designers create better digital products. And the great role here plays another type – feedback from users. Read our article to learn why’s it’s even more important for designers and discover methods of collecting customer feedback for your product design.